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7 Public Speaking Tips For Introverts
Public speaking is a daunting prospect for most people but, for those of a shy disposition, the thought of standing in front of an audience to talk can instil absolute terror. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
This fear largely boils down to the widespread belief that introverted people simply do not make good public speakers. It’s a job that should be left to confident, outgoing, charismatic people who are naturally good at small talk and can rhyme off a hilarious anecdote with no effort at all.
The truth is that everyone has the potential to be a good public speaker; introverted or extroverted by nature.
In fact, when it comes to speaking in front of an audience, shy and retiring people have strengths that loud, confident people do not and, when these strengths are embraced, they can become extremely effective communicators.
The key to being able to deliver an engaging public speech is to just feel the fear and do it anyway - which, for most shy people, is much easier said than done.
If this seems like an impossible task, there are some tips and tricks that introverts can take on board before stepping out on stage.
1. Be Yourself
Let’s start with the ultimate cliché, just to get it out of the way.
If you’re preparing to give a public speech for the first time, be yourself. Don’t succumb to pressure to appear like other speakers you’ve seen on TV, or in TED Talks that you’ve watched online.
If there’s a speaker that you like or whose style you aspire to, don’t try to imitate them or turn yourself into their character. For one, if you are putting effort into trying to be someone you’re not, you’ll be juggling too many tasks and the effectiveness of your speech will ultimately suffer. Furthermore, for the audience, it’s easy to see when someone is putting on an act and this will prove distracting and memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Instead, take a look at what you have to offer as a speaker. If you’re not naturally funny or witty, don’t force yourself to be a comedian on stage. Perhaps you’re a great storyteller instead. Identify your strengths and focus solely on using them.
2. See it as a Performance
This may seem contradictory to the first point but it is very possible to put on a performance, whilst still being yourself.
Simply think of when you are your best, most confident self - maybe it’s when you’re hosting dinner parties at your house, or perhaps when you’re working with colleagues on a project at work. Envision a time when you feel strong and good about yourself and channel that version of yourself on stage.
Speaking is not an act of extroversion. People think it is. It has nothing to do with extroversion. It’s a performance, and many performers are hugely introverted!
Malcolm Gladwell - Journalist, Author and Speaker.
3. Be as Prepared as Possible
One of the advantages that introverts have is that they often prepare more when it comes to public speaking; unlike many extroverts who think they can just wing it when they get on stage.
If you’re not naturally chatty or good at the old small talk, it pays to be prepared. A major fear that many introverts have is losing their train of thought mid-speech and not having the communicative skills to get back on track.
To avoid this, prepare like you’ve never prepared before. Learn and rehearse every single word of your speech, verbatim; like a school child reciting a poem off by heart.
A great way to do this is to record yourself making your speech on your phone and take a long walk, listening to yourself over and over again until you’ve memorised it so well that the words roll off your tongue. Then repeat the speech over to yourself as you carry out tasks during the day. Say it to yourself in your head as you do the washing up, or cook dinner. Practicing in this way is also good for gauging the timing of your talk.
4. It’s Not All About You
One way to overcome any anxiety you have about public speaking is to forget about yourself and focus on the audience.
The best speeches are ones which give the audience what they want; whether that’s solving a problem or reaffirming a belief that they have. If you place all your attention on being able to do this, you’ll be a lot less concerned with your own worries.
5. Wear Something Awesome
When doing anything that makes you anxious, it’s important to feel as physically comfortable as possible as this helps to ease you.
For your public speech, choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in; something which keeps you cool and doesn’t reveal any nervous sweat patches, and nothing too flamboyant which will distract the audience. Most importantly, ensure that it’s an outfit that makes you feel like you.
Think back on times in your life when you’ve felt great about yourself and how you look, and select an outfit that gives you that same feeling of confidence.
See our page on Self-Presentation for lots more information about how to convey a positive and calm appearance.
6. Smile and Speak Slowly
A sure fire sign of how nervous someone is, is the speed at which they are talking. Anxious people talk quickly and this can also make the audience feel uncomfortable.
When you get on stage, talk as slowly as you possibly can. Not only does this slow your heart rate down and help reduce anxiety, but it also gives the audience a chance to really listen to your words and digest them, making your speech resonate more deeply.
And don’t forget to smile. Unless you’re speaking on a subject of a serious tone, where light-heartedness would be inappropriate, then always smile. It’s the most powerful way to make a good impression and endear yourself to the audience. Plus, smiling helps you relax in a ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ kind of way. If your body language is positive, your mind will follow suit.
7. Take Care of Yourself
An extroverted person is someone who gets their energy from social situations. However, an introverted person is someone who becomes drained of energy during social situations.
So if you are an introverted person speaking in front of a crowd, you need to take care of yourself and ensure that you feel good and recharged before you step out on stage. Be sure to give yourself some alone time before and after you speak to help yourself keep calm and unfazed.
About the Author
Lana Richardson is a journalist, digital marketer and public speaker. She is the current blog editor at NIParcels.com.